The Speaker

It was the eleventh hour. Aware of the power of the message and the critical nature of the hour, I mounted the platform. Adrenalin had kept me awake most of of the night and the morning coffee had me buzzing, but I was ready to speak; not because I had been touched by God in some lofty place and had come down with words on stone, but because I had been scared out of my wits by the humble place I was forced to come to in order to hear God's message.

   It was a critical hour for the people I was addressing, a critical hour for their country. But the Word of God which I shared had two edges: one for that moment, one for the future; one for the people, one for the preacher — and I felt the edge pointing at me then. I was feeling it hard against my chest. That was a critical hour for me as well.

   "What did you go out into the desert to see?" I read Christ's words about John the Baptist from Matthew 11. "A reed blowing in the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings'

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palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet."

   I was dramatizing the Word and feeling its effect on the audience. "What audacity! A crazy man in the wilderness wearing camel's hair and eating locusts and honey! And this man was preparing the way for the Christ, the Anointed, the Savior of the world?"

   The obviously radical nature of these strange workings of God in history excited me. Too many times, my backbone had swayed like a reed in the wind. Too many times I had felt uncomfortable in the fine clothes of a king. No more. I was determined to no longer compromise the Gospel, to no longer be patronized by men who claim it falsely.

   I read on expressively: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it." The Word had challenged me. For years I had been preaching a passive Gospel. Now, at a crucial time, God had led me to an aggressive laying hold of the kingdom of God. As I called the people to an aggressive love that would break down the racial religious, social, and political barriers in their divided country, I heard the call in my own ears: a call to love my wife.

   I had also heard it, oddly enough, in the movie during my transAtlantic flight. "Define 'love,' " Starman had said. "Love is caring for someone more than you care for yourself," Jenny had replied. Her response had cut me to the quick. I had preached this theme countless times, but suddenly, in the context of a science fiction movie, I had understood it as if for the first time. I had never let anyone else steal time from my own concerns — as my wife's present emotional state and the situation at home evidenced. Nourishing and cherishing her as God commanded would mean laying hold of the kingdom of God.

  I read on. "To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' "

   "They were asleep," I told my audience. "They were dulled by their own complacency, their ease, their noninvolvement in life. They never laid hold of anything. The sorrow wasn't there and the joy wasn't there. The dance of life was left for children, not for adults who knew better.

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   "You must attach yourself to the pain that divides this country. You can't ignore it and hope that it will go away. You must mourn over it, but you can also bind yourself to the love that can unite this country. You can discover that you are your country's hope. You can do something about the problems; and in doing something, you can dance the dance of life."

   I finished my message just as Christ finished His. " 'Wisdom is proved right by her actions' — and this is a time for action," I concluded, "a time for radical Christianity, and a time for Christians to aggressively support the dignity of the individual regardless of race, and to model an overcoming love that breaks down walls to the world."

   As I sat down, I was not thinking about the impact of my message, the significance of my trip, the reasons why I almost had not come, nor of the now-clear evidence why God sent me. Instead, I was aware of the things in my own life that I could no longer ignore; things I had hoped would go away. Like each one of us, I had to act — and in doing what I had to do, I have freed myself to dance.

Chapter 54  ||  Table of Contents